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Nederlog

April 22, 2015
Crisis: Bush & Obama, Food Banks, Fast Track, Snowden, "Truth"
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















Sections
Introduction

1. Jeb Bush Praises Obama’s Expansion of NSA Surveillance
2. More than a million people have used food banks in past
     year

3. 
Fast-Track: A Gut-Kick to the Progressive Movement
4. Generation Snowden: On Why Surveillance Reform Is
     Inevitable

5. The Canadian Ministry of "Truth": "Reality Is Whatever
     We Say It Is"


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on the many deep sympathies between the Democrats and the Republicans; item 2 is about an article in the Guardian about the steep increase in Britons - 1.1 millions lately - who must rely on foodbanks under
David Cameron's Tory government; item 3 is about the fast track, that will continue in the U.S. to favor the rich at the cost of the poor; item 4 is an
article by the director of the ACLU that I found too optimistic; and item 5
is about a good piece on Canada's growing and growing totalitarianism, that also allows me to sketch some of my - quite extensive - experiences with studying at a (leftist) totalitarian university (and you may skip my experiences, but they are quite true and were very bitter, for me).

1. Jeb Bush Praises Obama’s Expansion of NSA Surveillance

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
One of the most glaring myths propagated by Washington — especially the two parties’ media loyalists — is that bipartisanship is basically impossible, that the two parties agree on so little, that they are constantly at each other’s throats over everything. As is so often the case for Washington partisan propaganda, the reality is exactly the opposite: from trade deals to Wall Street bailouts to a massive National Security and Penal State, the two parties are in full agreement on the bulk of the most significant D.C. policies (which is why the leading candidates of the two parties (from America’s two ruling royal families) will have the same funding base).
Yes, indeed: quite so. I realize this is diffficult to swallow for many progressives (let's say), but I think it is quite true - which also means that the many and the poor have little to expect and much to fear from either party (although it is still
true that there is a little more to expect from the Democrats than from the candidates of the Republicans).

Glenn Greenwald has a piece of evidence that is quite strong: This is a quote of Jeb Bush talking to conservative radio host Michael Medved:

Medved: If you were to look back at the last seven years, almost, what has been the best part of the Obama administration?

Jeb Bush: I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced. Advancing this — even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation, I think of our national government is to keep us safe.
There is a little more in the quotation, but to read that you have to click on the dotted link in this item.

Here is the last part of the article:
The cause of NSA mass surveillance has been particularly embraced by many Democrats because it was Obama doing it (as I’ve said before, if Edward Snowden had leaked this information when a Republican was in the Oval Office, there would be a massive statue erected of him outside of the MSNBC studios, where he is now often vilified). And now, Jeb Bush (in contrast to Rand Paul, who vowed to end NSA spying “on Day One”) has declared himself fully in support of that cause, hailing Obama for expanding these capabilities.
Actually, I don't know that "if Edward Snowden had leaked this information when a Republican was in the Oval Office, there would be a massive statue erected of him outside of the MSNBC studios".

Of course, Glenn Greenwald may be right (and anyway the question is a mere hypothetical), but given that (i) most of the Senators and House members do what their lobbyists tell them to do, and (ii) the NSA makes the American government extremely powerful, and in full control of everyone (in principle),
I would not have been very amazed if many of the Democrats still would have
supported the NSA.

But then again, the question is merely hypothetical and counterfactual.

2. More than a million people have used food banks in past year

The next item is an article by Patrick Butler on The Guardian:

Thus starts as follows:

More than 1 million people, including rising numbers of low-paid workers, were forced to use food banks in the last 12 months, challenging claims that the dividends of Britain’s economic recovery are being equally shared.

The latest figures from the Trussell Trust, which coordinates a network of food banks in the UK, show a 19% year-on-year increase in food bank users, demonstrating that hunger, debt and poverty are continuing to affect large numbers of low-income families and individuals.

Nearly 1.1 million people received at least three days of emergency food from the trust’s 445 food banks in 2014-15 – up from 913,000 the previous year.

Back in 2009-10, before the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition took power, the then little-known charity fed 41,000 people from its 56 food banks.
I sincerely thank David Cameron and the Conservatives for a 25-fold raise in Britains using food banks. These anyway cater to over a million Britains that are much better dead (in the Conservatives honest opinions: they do not contribute anything to the incomes of the rich), and if the Conservatives have any luck, they may starve them all in the next 5 years.

Here is some more on the evident excellence of Cameron's Tory policies:

Chris Mould, the Trussell Trust chairman, said the figures showed many people were experiencing “catastrophic” problems as a result of low incomes, despite signs of a wider economic recovery. He said: “These needs have not diminished in the last 12 months.”

Experts warned that the figures were the “tip of the iceberg” of food poverty in the UK, while doctors said the inability of families to buy enough food had become a public health issue.

Rest assured: With continued Tory government most of these may not live when another five years have passed: There are far too many non-deserving poor, and not quite enough deserving mega-rich.
Vote Conservative to starve the British poor!

(I am sorry: I can't treat this non-satirically, if indeed that is what I imply it is.)

3.  Fast-Track: A Gut-Kick to the Progressive Movement

The next item is an article by Sarah Anderson on Common Dreams:
This has the following summary:
The administration's push to ram massive new trade and investment deals through Congress is an unambiguous concession to corporate power.
The article itself starts as follows:

In a move that elicited a collective groan from virtually all of progressive America, the Obama administration and congressional Republicans reached a deal on April 16 on so-called “fast track” trade authority. This is the legislation needed to ram new trade agreements through the U.S. Congress with limited debate and no amendments.

It was a gut-kick for labor unions and environmental, consumer, human rights, and other groups that have long called for a change of course on U.S. trade policy. Instead, the fast track legislation shows we’re still stuck in the same old failed model of the 1990s. The bill lays out trade policy objectives that elevate the narrow interests of large corporations and undercut efforts to support good jobs, the environment, and financial stability.

Nowhere is this corporate bias more explicit than in the “investor-state” dispute settlement mechanism. In fact it would be hard to find in any U.S. policy a stronger example of excessive power granted to large corporations. Under this mechanism, private foreign investors are allowed to sue governments in international tribunals over actions — including public interest regulations — that reduce the value of their investments. The fast track bill makes clear that future trade agreements will continue to grant this extreme corporate privilege.

As I have said before, for me these "extreme corporate privilege(s)" herald the arrival of fascism, which is classically defined as arriving when the corporations have taken control the government. You do not believe that? You are welcome to your opinion but consider what is now happening under previous "trade pacts":
You would think the proliferation of such “investor-state” suits in recent years would give policymakers pause. Here we are, for example, in the middle of the climate crisis, and yet investors are allowed to sue governments over policies to encourage renewable energy. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we have a case against Germany over its decision to phase out nuclear power. And at a time when tobacco-related health costs total about half a trillion dollars per year, Philip Morris is suing the governments of Australia and Uruguay over anti-smoking laws.
And this is just a trickle compared with the flood of "court" cases that will follow the new trade pacts:

Anything which promises to possibly diminish the estimated profits of the multi-national corporations may be brought to some sort of "court", mostly manned by lawyers from the
multi-national corporations, and will be "adjudicated" there, without appeal, and very possibly mostly or wholly in secret.

There is more in the article.

4. Generation Snowden: On Why Surveillance Reform Is Inevitable

The next item is an article by Anthony D. Romero (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

About a year ago, a thirty-something sculptor in Los Angeles began working on a bust of Edward Snowden. When he was done, he shipped the bust to his artist friends on the East Coast. Just before dawn April 6, the artists crept under cover of darkness into Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park and installed the 100-pound bust atop a Revolutionary War memorial.

"We chose to pay tribute to Snowden through the medium of a bust because that is one of the visual pieces society uses as a guidepost to who a hero is," one of the artists said in a video released after the bust was installed.

By 3 p.m. the New York Parks Department and police had taken the bust down. But the next morning, a different group of artists cast a holographic image of Snowden where the bust had stood.

The message to the authorities could not be clearer: Snowden is not going away. A large and important segment of our society sees Snowden as hero and whistleblower — and its members are the future.

I say. Here is a sketch of the evidence that Romero quotes: There was a global poll that questioned millenials (defined as: 18-34 year olds) with the following outcome:

The poll showed that in every country surveyed — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.S. — millennials have an overwhelmingly positive opinion of Snowden. In continental Europe, 78% to 86% has positive opinions of him. Even in the United States, where the Justice Department has charged Snowden with espionage, 56% view him favorably.

The poll also found that millennials believe Snowden's disclosures will benefit privacy rights. In Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, 54% to 59% said they thought Snowden's actions would lead to more privacy protection.

By 2020, [millennials] will represent 1 out of 3 adults. As they grow in influence, so too will the demand to rein in the surveillance state.

Really? I wish my faith was as strong as Romero's, but it isn't. And since this really is a matter of faith, I think my position is both more unpleasant and more realistic:

Unless there will be a major grass roots effort in favor of privacy and against surveillance - for which I currently see no evidence - mass surveillance will continue, simply because it promises all power to the few who govern, and there is no effective opposition against it with any strength in the American Senate and House.

5. The Canadian Ministry of "Truth": "Reality Is Whatever We Say It Is"

The last item today is an article by Fred Guerin on Truth-out:

This starts as follows:

One of the frightening aspects of ideology is how easy its governing principles can be obscured behind tautologies and reality-denying affirmations that are then effortlessly absorbed en masse simply through continuous repetition.

Ideology articulated in tautological form is what Orwell captured in his novel 1984 when he reduced Ingsoc (English Socialism) to three infamous slogans intended to shape and discipline the minds of Oceania's citizens: War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength. These statements appear to say two different things, but they actually say the same thing twice. They cannot be factually or logically refuted because they are self-reinforcing statements that point back to themselves. However, they do play an essential role in what Noam Chomsky has called the "manufacture of consent."

In Orwell's dystopia, such inversions of the meaning of words are precisely intended to render language, and indeed truth and reality, entirely malleable, subject to the arbitrariness of those who happen to be in power. During one of his torture sessions, Winston Smith objects that there is a real world outside the world of the Party. His torturer, O'Brien, assures him that "reality is simply whatever the party says it is."

This is a good and fairly long piece by a Canadian philosopher, that is mostly dedicated to developments in Canada, that is following the United States in its program of universal and constant surveillance of everyone.

Well - here is a bit of personal history (which you may skip if thus inclined, and continue here):

In fact, I - and everyone who studied in the University of Amsterdam - was taught the same, at least in the years from 1977-2005, but it wasn't called by any ugly name like "totalitarianism", and it certainly wasn't called "nonsense" or "brain rot": it was hailed as a very liberating postmodernism, and summed up as follows:
The first thesis was pronounced (exactly as quoted, though in Dutch: "Iedereen weet dat waarheid niet bestaat") in a special public lecture for the opening of the academic year, that was ordained and supported by the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam, in August of 1978.

Almost no one protested. The very few who did - such as myself - were promptly called "fascists" by the many who loved these teachings. And the teachings were very soon embraced by most students and most of the staff because of their enormous liberating implications [1]:

As truth did not exist, anything whatsoever could be maintained (and was!); as everyone is of equal value absolutely no one is any better than the worst, the most sadistic, or the most stupid (and no one is any better than the speaker!); and as all morals are relative, the Soviet Union (that still existed) could be praised as a wholly equivalent and quite admirable human experiment that was of equal value as anything else (and it was, by the academic staff!). [2]

The only student who firmly resisted this was ... my self, who was ill all the time, but who did create a student party that got elected in the University Parliament with one member (not me: I was too ill), that was opposed (at least occasionally) as "a fascist" organization by the 12 or so members of the ASVA, and indeed it also did not command enough votes to make any change.

In the end - after some 4 years in which I did not study, again because of illness - I was invited to speak to my fellow students and the academic staff of the faculty for philosophy, which I accepted, and in which speech I only asked - indeed quite critical - questions.

The response was that 16 academic "philosophers" (plus students) screamed at me that I was "a dirty fascist", and when it was also screamed at me that I was "a terrorist" (because the staff lost their discussions with me) I stopped - and a few days later I was informed by letter that I was cast out from the faculty of philosophy and was denied the right to do an M.A. in it (which I had nearly finished). [3]

When I appealed to the Board of Directors, its leader drs. Jan-Karel Gevers and his second in command dr. Roel Poppe confirmed the decision; added that I had to go to a non-Dutch university for an M.A. and showed they were sick sadists by assuring me that they "had taken your serious illness
very seriously".

Well...because I also had a B.A. in psychology, and was not cast out of the university, in the end I got a - very brilliant - M.A. in psychology in the University of Amsterdam.

Why do I tell these facts?

Firstly, because they happened, and they cost me, together with my illness, my chances on a career and on earning very well. [4] And secondly, and more importantly:

I have studied in a totalitarian leftist university, which I also finished better than anyone else, and it has taught me how extremely easy it is to mislead even "the most intelligent" and the most radical persons with insane bullshit, utter trash, and complete nonsense, and especially if the bullshit gives them the chance of indulging their personal problems.

Here is a last bit by Fred Guerin:
Finally, here in Canada, we will soon be asked to submit to the necessity of an anti-terrorism law that is ostensibly aimed at potential terrorists and "violent jihadists." However, this is not legislation meant to address the external threat posed by terrorists, but the cynical employment of law as a tool for citizen control, political repression and population domestication. In other words, the vague and overly broad language of Bill C-51 is specifically intended to create a chilling effect on any Canadian citizen who might have the audacity to show their disagreement with government policy or corporate kleptocracy by engaging in grass-roots dissent, protest or civil disobedience.
I much hope the Canadians will succeed, but as my story showed I do not think that is very likely.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] Those who are not Dutch should realize that from 1971-1995 all Dutch universities were given to the students, and worked under a parliamentary sort of system where the University Parliament (Dutch: "Universiteitsraad") was the leading institution, as is the Parliament in the state, and where every faculty again had its own parliament (Dutch: "Faculteitsraad"). For both parliaments there were yearly elections amongst the students, the academic staff and the rest who worked in the university, with 1 man 1 vote for everyone, whether  he or she was a student, a professor or a cleaner of toilets. This meant that the "communist" student party the ASVA had the absolute majority everywhere from 1977-1995 and ruled supreme, together with the "socialist" Board of Directors who always were managers from the Dutch Labour Party.

More precisely: From 1977-1982 most students were either members of the communist party or were extreme leftists of some other kind, and from 1983 onwards most students (including quite a few who were communists in 1982)
converted to postmodernism, that held sway until well in the 2000s.

And the reason I do not say anything about the Dutch universities after 2005 is that I did not visit the University of Amsterdam since 2004 (which I did regularly do since 1971: I have a lot of experience with that institution).

But
the University of Amsterdam certainly did not improve.

[2] Around 1990 I was quite seriously told by several students of psychology that they were the equals of Isaac Newton because everyone was equal to anyone else. When I asked about their enormous mathematical and physical talents, they assured me that they must have them (everybody being equal, after all), but that their personal preferences had moved them not to use these talents...

And this is a wholly true story (as is the fact that in 1984 the average IQ was a measly 115 among the students of the university).

[3] No one else was thrown out of a university for saying honestly what he thought
since WW II ended (and I always was and am an anti-fascist, just like my - communist - parents and grandparents).

[4] Instead, I am one of the poorest Dutchmen since I never had an income that was as high as the legal minimum wage.

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